An Overview of Delayed Ejaculation

A sexual dysfunction that affects up to 4% of men

Frustrated man sitting on edge of bed

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Delayed ejaculation (DE) is a common medical condition in which a man has difficulty reaching an orgasm. It should not be confused with erectile dysfunction (the inability to achieve an erection) or decreased libido (low sex drive), although both can sometimes contribute to DE.

DE is not only frustrating to men but can complicate the sex lives of their partners as well. Whereas as a male orgasm can normally be achieved within several minutes, DE may prolong sex for 30 minutes or longer. During that time, the partner may lose vaginal or anal lubrication or simply lack the energy or will to sustain sex.

Fortunately, there are ways to diagnose and treat DE. Some of the techniques take time but can often improve sexual function and increase the speed by which you climax and ejaculate.

Delayed ejaculation is believed to affect 1% to 4% of the male population, according to a 2016 review of studies published in Translational Andrology and Urology.

Symptoms

Delayed ejaculation is usually self-evident, especially to those affected. In some cases, the man may feel as if he on the verge of climax but is unable to reach the point of ejaculation. At other times, there may be an erection but no sense of an approaching orgasm.

DE may be broadly classified by the severity of the dysfunction:

  • Mild (is able to ejaculate during intercourse but only under certain controlled conditions)
  • Moderate (cannot ejaculate during intercourse but can with oral sex or masturbation)
  • Severe (can only ejaculate when alone)
  • Very severe (is unable to ejaculate)

These classifications cannot diagnose the cause of DE but sometimes point the doctor in the right direction.

Causes

Delayed ejaculation may have pathologic, neurological, hormonal, pharmaceutical, or psychological causes. In some cases, there may be overlapping causes that only add to the dysfunction.

Some of the causes a doctor may explore include:

Psychological problems can both cause and contribute to DE. Depression, anxiety, or emotional trauma can alone cause dysfunction. Religious or social taboo may interfere with your ability to enjoy sex and reach orgasm. Work stress, financial stress, or stress within the relationship are common narratives among couples experiencing DE.

Stress has a cause-and-effect relationship with DE. Not only can stress contribute to DE, but the inability to achieve orgasm can build upon these negative emotions, making orgasm all the more impossible.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing DE is not always straightforward and simple. In some of the more severe cases, it may require multiple doctors or specialists to pinpoint the cause.

With that being said, a physical exam and review of your medical history may be all that is needed to render a diagnosis. If the cause is not readily apparent, the doctor may order tests to help narrow the causes. These may include:

  • Blood tests to check for diabetes, low testosterone, thyroid disease, prostate problems or systemic inflammation suggestive of an infection
  • Urinalysis to look for signs of diabetes or infection in urine

If the cause is believed to be psychological (and no other reasonable explanation can be found), the doctor may refer you to psychologist or sex therapist trained in treating sexual dysfunction.

If a disease, medical condition, or surgical complication is believed to be the cause, various lab tests, imaging studies, and diagnostic procedures may be performed to support or rule out the suspicion.

Treatment

The treatment of delayed ejaculation depends on the underlying cause or causes of the dysfunction.

If DE is caused by medication side effects, it sometimes helps to lower the dose or substitute the drug with another agent. While there are no FDA-approved drugs used to treat DE, there are medications doctors will sometimes prescribe off-label if the problem is moderate to severe. These include:

Testosterone injections or patches may sometimes be used if hypogonadism is diagnosed. (The use of testosterone in men without hypogonadism is unlikely to help.)

Erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs like Viagra (sildenafil) or Cialis (tadalafil) may be prescribed if ED is a contributing factor. With that said, ED drugs do nothing to promote orgasm outside of enhancing confidence and performance.

Medical interventions may be explored if chronic conditions are not being managed, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid disease.

Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist may help you overcome any emotional barriers that are standing in the way of an orgasm. This may involve one-on-one counseling or counseling with your partner.

If the cause is functional (meaning caused by sexual practices or habits), a sex therapist may use talk therapy, toys, devices, or sexual and mental exercises to alter the way you approach sex and orgasm.

Coping

Delayed ejaculation is a frustrating condition for both you and your partner. Overcoming DE can take time and require commitment from both of you as a team. Central to this is open and honest communication, not only about what you are experiencing but also what is working or not working in bed.

Being honest doesn't mean criticizing or hurting your partner. It is about expressing how you feel clearly ("I find this position uncomfortable") rather than telling your partner what he or she is doing wrong. Focus on the positive and don't put stress on yourself by trying to "make things right."

By working together as a team, you are more likely to improve not only your sex life but your relationship as well.

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